It's been a long time coming, but the Marine Corps variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has achieved Initial Operational Capability. The 10 F-35B Lightning II fighters of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., can now be deployed anywhere in the world. (Post)
The B variant can take off from short runways and land vertically, and gaining IOC is a milestone in the evolution of the controversial fighter, which has taken longer to develop and at a higher cost than initially expected.
The Air Force version of the fighter is the F-35A and the carrier-capable Navy variant is the F-35C. The A model is a conventional take-off and landing model that will go operational in the fall of 2016. The C model, which has a tailhook and will be used both by the Navy and Marines, is scheduled to go operational in 2018.
The Marines plan on buying 340 B and 80 C models. The first F-35B deployment is scheduled to take place in 2017, with VMFA-121 moving to Iwakuni, Japan. The jets are operational but not in heir final form. More capability, including the use of the plane's gun, will come down the line.
The decision to declare the F-35B’s IOC was made following an Operational Readiness Inspection that assessed the Marine Corps' ability to employ the high-tech weapon system in an operational environment.
The topic of the F-35 is closely followed by folks in this region. Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is home of the F-35 integrated training center and F-35 reprogramming lab.
-- In another F-35 item, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $37.5 million contract modification for a delivery order against a previously issued basic ordering agreement. The modification authorizes engineering change proposals for air vehicle retrofit modifications to be incorporated into designated aircraft and supporting subsystems in support of the F-35 aircraft Block 3F requirements.
This modification also includes retrofit modification kits, installation, and labor to incorporate the modification kits. Work will be performed in Texas, Georgia and California and is expected to be completed in August 2018. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. (Post)
OK, I avoided putting the headline "Mobile gets REEL," but that would have been valid. The REEL Group of France is establishing its first U.S. facility with 4,500-square-feet of office, warehouse, and workshop space at Mobile Aeroplex, which is also the site where Airbus will build A320 jetliners.
The announcement is in direct response to REEL Service Division being awarded the jigs and tools maintenance service provider contract for the Airbus A320 plant. The newly formed subsidiary, REEL USA Corp., is expected to create more than 20 full-time positions. The lease allows for expansion. (Post)
-- On another front, two sites in Baldwin County were awarded designation as Alabama AdvantageSites. The 39.5-acre Segers Aerospace Site, originally part of the Fairhope Industrial Park but now owned by Aviation Industrial Group Inc., became Baldwin County’s seventh Advantage site when it was given the designation early in the week. (Post)
Then later in the week, the 78.6-acre Gulf Shores Business and Aviation Park, adjacent to the Jack Edwards National Airport, became the county’s eighth AdvantageSite. The site is owned by the Gulf Sores Airport Authority. The AdvantageSite program, coordinated by the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, is sponsored by the Alabama Department of Commerce, Alabama Gas Corp., Alabama Power Co., the North Alabama Industrial Development Association and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative. (Post)
A NASA-owned C-130 is almost halfway through some modification work being done at South Alabama Regional Airport in Andalusia, Ala. The Kearns Group of Daleville and Pinnacle Solutions of Huntsville are doing electrical and structural work on the plane, which got to the airport in June.
It's being modified for NASA’s Atmospheric Carbon and Transport-America mission, which will measure atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane over the central and eastern U.S. during all four seasons. (Post)
-- While on the subject of aircraft, the new AC-130J "Ghostrider" gunship arrived during the week at Hurlburt Field, Fla., home of Air Force Special Operations Command. The plane, a heavily modified Lockheed Martin C-130, combines the firepower capabilities of the AC-130W and AC-130U gunships. The gunships are most notable for circling a target and firing down with pinpoint accuracy.
This particular aircraft spent the last few months at nearby Eglin Air Force Base where it went through an array of tests. Four pilots assigned to the new 2nd Detachment of the 1st Special Operations Group will put the aircraft through operational testing. A second Ghostrider is currently undergoing testing at Eglin. (Post)
L-3 Communications Corp., Madison, Miss., was awarded a $274.6 million contract modification for continued contractor logistic support for about 235 government aircraft (40 RC-12s, 167 C-12s, 28 UC-35s). Work will be performed in Madison with an estimated completion date of July 31, 2016. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting authority. … General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Aerospace, Bothell, Wash., was awarded a $7.2 million contract for heated and mobile munitions employing rockets. Work will be performed at Orlando, Fla., and is expected to be complete by April 29, 2016. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the contracting activity.